Death by indifference

From CBS News
Ignored By 911, Woman Dies In Hospital
Emergency Operators Did Little To Help A Woman Dying In A Hospital Waiting Room
Associated Press
Wed Jun 13, 11:30 AM ET

LOS ANGELES – A woman who lay bleeding on the emergency room floor of a troubled inner-city hospital died after 911 dispatchers refused to contact paramedics or an ambulance to take her to another facility, newly released tapes of the emergency calls reveal.

Edith Isabel Rodriguez, 43, died of a perforated bowel on May 9 at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital. Her death was ruled accidental by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

Relatives said Rodriguez was bleeding from the mouth and writhing in pain for 45 minutes while she was at a hospital waiting area. Experts have said she could have survived had she been treated early enough.

In the recordings of two 911 calls that day, first obtained by the Los Angeles Times under a California Public Records Act request, callers pleaded for help for Rodriguez but were referred to hospital staff instead.

“I’m in the emergency room. My wife is dying and the nurses don’t want to help her out,” Rodriguez’s boyfriend, Jose Prado, is heard saying in Spanish through an interpreter on the tapes.
“What’s wrong with her?” a female dispatcher asked.
“She’s vomiting blood,” Prado said.
“OK, and why aren’t they helping her?” the dispatcher asked.
“They’re watching her there and they’re not doing anything. They’re just watching her,” Prado said.

The dispatcher told Prado to contact a doctor and then said paramedics wouldn’t pick her up because she was already in a hospital. She later told him to contact county police officers at a security desk.

A second 911 call was placed eight minutes later by a bystander who requested that an ambulance be sent to take Rodriguez to another hospital for care.

“She’s definitely sick and there’s a guy that’s ignoring her,” the woman told a male dispatcher.

During the call, the dispatcher argued with the woman over whether there really was an emergency.

“I cannot do anything for you for the quality of the hospital. … It is not an emergency. It is not an emergency ma’am,” he said.
“You’re not here to see how they’re treating her,” the woman replied.

The dispatcher refused to call paramedics and told the woman that she should contact hospital supervisors “and let them know” if she is unhappy.

“May God strike you too for acting the way you just acted,” the woman said finally.
“No, negative ma’am, you’re the one,” he said.

(from the Los Angeles Times)
“What’s real confusing … was that she was at a medical facility,” said Sheriff’s Capt. Steven M. Roller, who is in charge of the Century Station, which handled the calls. “That poses some real quandaries.”

At the same time, Roller said, the dismissive tone of the second dispatcher, who was not identified, was inappropriate.

“As a station commander, I don’t like any of my employees getting rude or nasty with any caller, regardless, and in that particular case, obviously, the employee’s conduct could have been better,” Roller said. The employee received written “counseling,” Roller said.

The unidentified dispatcher to whom Roller referred kept cutting off the female bystander [who had placed the second 911 call].

“Ma’am, I cannot do anything for you for the quality of the hospital there,” the dispatcher said. “Do you understand what I’m saying? This line is for emergency purposes only…. 911 is used for emergency purposes only.”
The woman replied, “This is an emergency, mister.”
The dispatcher cut her off. “It is not an emergency. It is not an emergency, ma’am.”
“It is,” the woman said.
“It is not an emergency,” the dispatcher replied.
“You’re not here to see how they’re treating her,” the bystander said.
“OK, well, that’s not a criminal thing. You understand what I’m saying?” the dispatcher said.
“Excuse me, if this woman fall out and die, what [do] you mean there ain’t a criminal thing?” the woman said.

In the days leading up to her death, Rodriguez had sought care in the King-Harbor emergency room three times. Each time she was released after receiving prescription drugs for pain. On May 8, however, she did not leave the hospital but instead lay on the benches in front of its main entrance.

County police officers found her there and helped escort her to the emergency room. There, a triage nurse told Rodriguez that nothing could be done to help her.

Meanwhile, police ran a computer check on Rodriguez and found that she had a no-bail warrant for her arrest. As she was being taken to a squad car to be placed in custody, she became unresponsive. She died a short time later in the ER.

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